American woman sparks furious backlash for ‘tone-deaf’ viral thread about moving to Bali

American woman sparks furious backlash for ‘tone-deaf’ viral thread about moving to Bali
iStock, Twitter

An American woman has sparked heated debate on social media after a thread about her move to Bali went viral.

It seems she may have picked the wrong platform to gush about her new home. While her 20-tweet thread may have worked as an Instagram caption about making dreams come true, over on Twitter people had other thoughts.

The woman in question has since locked her account, but here’s a summary of the thread: after spending most of 2019 out of work, she and her girlfriend decided to try out Bali for six months, where she became a self-employed graphic designer and managed to live in a “treehouse” for just $400, compared to a $1,300 LA studio they were in before. They have now been there for a year, and she says that they are living an “elevated lifestyle” and that Bali was “the perfect medicine” for her physical and emotional health.

She lists the benefits of living in Bali as: safety, low cost of living, luxury lifestyle, queer-friendly, and goes on to share her positive experience as a Black woman with the Black community there. To close out, she links to her ebook Our Bali Life is Yours which helps other people to achieve the same dream. It is currently for sale for $30.

The backlash was immediate, with thousands of replies and quote-tweets, many of which were highlighting the impact that relatively wealthy American migrants have on local communities and gentrification.

Some tried to suggest these points were the equivalent to anti-immigration sentiment in the US, but others highlighted that this ignores the reality of the different power dynamics at play.

Her comments about living in luxury were also labelled tone-deaf, given that Indonesia is Southeast Asia’s most populous nation and its largest economy, yet around a quarter of the population lives just above the poverty line, with almost 10 per cent living in poverty.

People who are from Indonesia themselves also highlighted how different life is in the country for those without the writer’s American privilege, and the potential damage of encouraging more Americans to move there.

Others took the opportunity to point out the historical and ongoing violence and oppression which exists in Indonesia, but which she didn’t touch upon at all in her thread.

The Papua Conflict in particular has led to accusations against the Indonesian government of human rights violations including torture, extrajudicial killings and politically motivated arrests. 

According to a 2019 report from Amnesty, “the government failed to protect human rights defenders, and restricted the rights to freedom of expression, peaceful assembly and association.”

While Bali is known to be more progressive, especially on LGBTQ+ issues, Indonesian law still discriminates against people for their sexual orientation and fails to protect them from hate crimes and homophobic attacks.

Despite many people branding the thread out-of-touch, there were also many who defended the writer, saying it shouldn’t be the responsibility of a Black queer woman to fix systemic issues affecting the country.

Before locking her account, the user posted one last tweet which seemed to acknowledge the backlash, saying: “The conversations being had here are valid. Though they aren’t the conversations I was having today. They’ve been seen and heard. Just sharing my story with people.”

Meanwhile, “Bali” continues to trend on Twitter as people furiously debate who’s right and who’s wrong in this complex scenario.

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